National Public Radio slid in some news the other day that isn’t news to many: young people are habitually deferring and delaying doctor visits and medication due to money.
The organization’s Watson Health PULSE Healthcare Survey asked respondents about their capacity for affording healthcare services and prescription drugs, and 26 percent said that they had either postponed or canceled services during the last three months due to money problems. Another 19 percent of participants admitted they had difficulty filling their prescriptions.
Among the roughly 20 percent who said they had delayed or dumped services due to cost, 34 percent of them were under the age of 35, while people over 65 (who benefit from government-run Medicaid and Medicare) had a delay rate of only 8.4 percent. When asked if they or anyone in their household had difficulty paying for healthcare services, 40.7 percent of respondents under 35 said “yes,” while only 11 percent of respondents over 65 reported a problem with it.
The poll is no surprise to the population living it. Mississippi resident Maya Miller is the assistant director of the Magee Project, a division of multi-state non-profit The Lighthouse Project, which offers skills training, policy analysis and “safe spaces” for under-served African Americans. At 25, Miller is nearing a dangerous stage in her life. She is about to be too old to be carried on her parents’ insurance plan, but still not financially established enough to reliably afford doctor visits when she goes it alone in eight months.
Her situation is worsened by a new pre-existing condition that is about to be diagnosed any week now. She’s already on a monthly regimen of pills, but now suspects she also suffers the same debilitating form of arthritis that victimizes many of her relatives. She said she dreads the lifetime of bills and care that will be required to manage the disease.
“This has been a year of a lot of health expenses that I didn’t expect,” Miller told Grit Post. “I’ve been trying to see all of my doctors in the last four or five months before my insurance expires. I have to wonder where I will be in a year. Will it cost $100 a month, or $500? Will I be able to afford it? I spent $400 last month on deductible stuff, and I have to ask myself do I pay that, or do I go to the grocery store, or get my car fixed?”
Miller said she will be trying to enroll in the marketplace health insurance exchange offered by the Affordable Care Act, but fears that she still won’t be able to hack whatever cost the exchange demands of her low income.
Her situation isn’t exclusive. Healthcare costs are rising faster than inflation, due to a number of factors, including overblown prescriptions costs and provider consolidation, among other things. Meanwhile, millennials’ pay grows ever more stagnant.
Only 25 percent of men aged 25 to 34 had incomes of less than $30,000 per year (adjusted for inflation) in 1975. By 2016, that share rose to 41 percent of young men. Tie to that the onerous school debt now plaguing young Americans (and the fact that Forbes can cackle that they can’t bankrupt their way out of it like Donald Trump) and you’re looking at the kind of numbers that put private health on the back-burner for many young adults.
The widespread problem is likely fueling the nation’s growing infatuation with Medicare for All, which is now favored by 70 percent of Americans (including 52 percent of Republicans) in one Reuters poll.